As I write this, in the muddle-middle of the netherworld-ish interregnum between Donald J. Trump’s stunning U.S. presidential election victory and his formal inauguration as that country’s 45th president, there is much unclear, including, most importantly, what his presidency will mean for his country and the world.
That said, there are conclusions to draw.
Mostly though, we still have only pieces of the puzzle, and none of them fit together neatly.
For starters, we know Trump won America’s electoral college — and the presidency — while Hillary Clinton won two-million-plus votes more than her rival in the popular count — and got nothing.
Ironically, the electoral college, which Trump himself once called “a disaster for democracy,” was created by the founding fathers to protect states’ rights and defend against populist rabble such as… well, Donald Trump. These days, Trump calls it “actually, genius.” Whatever. In the winner/loser world of politics, Trump now has a free hand to shape American policy and life for four years.
Equally, trying to make sense of which candidate won the hearts and minds of which voters — white women with and without college degrees, Latinos, blacks, Jews, Muslims — is akin to trying to understand life in the late night leavings at the bottom of the liquor glass. “Women for Trump!”? It was that kind of election, and the future is what it will be.
It is also as much a waste of ink to chart a Trump presidency based on anything he has said or done before when campaign chants like “lock her up” and “make them pay” have already morphed into mush. A brief sampler of Trump’s now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t then-and-now flip-flops:
Obamacare From killing it on “day one” to musing about keeping parts that protect those with pre-existing conditions and young people living with their parents. Most experts say that isn’t financially viable.
Illegal immigrants “At least” 11 million illegal immigrants “will go” is now “probably two million…” Which is about the same number Obama deported.
The Mexican border wall Then: “It’s not a fence, Jeb, it’s a WALL, and there’s a BIG difference.” Now: “There could be some fencing…”
NATO Then: “a rip off.” Now: “all in favour.”
Raising the federal minimum wage For it. Against it.
Climate change From “not a great believer in man-made climate change” to “I think there is some connectivity.”
Income taxes Then: wealthy Americans, including especially hedge fund managers, were “getting away with murder” and should pay more taxes. Today, his official policy is they should pay less.
The head spins. Where it stops — as in a Trump casino — nobody knows.
For all that unertainty, there are a few take-it-the-bank takeaways from this election that should concern us all.
The first is there is real anger, edging past rage, not only in America but in much of the western world (can you say Brexit, Marine Le Pen, et al). It’s about specifics — trade deals, immigration, elites, inequality, moral decay, mainstream media, terror — but, more, about an oozing, blob-like fear the future will be worse for them, their children, their children’s children.
The second is we ignore this anger at our peril. We need to address the legitimate economic cries of those who’ve watched their jobs disappear to low-wage, no-benefit countries for the exclusive benefit of those who grow ever richer at their expense, and the expense of the third-world labour they exploit.
Billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump — who pays no taxes, who stiffs hotel sub-contractors, who defrauded hopeful students at Trump University, who benefits from the global trade deals he disparaged by using sweatshop workers to manufacture Trumpian tchokes — may turn out to be a poor champion for those whose passions he’s stirred.
But the larger, and more frightening, question is where will all those angry Americans turn after Trump?